Life is full of so many joys, but also ups and downs, twists and turns, and at times an-all out storm that can bring us to our knees. Our faith, if we choose to embrace it, can be that lifeline that tethers us when tossed about by either our own will or the circumstances that life brings. Quite often this connection to Christ is the only certainty which keeps us from going adrift altogether. For the grace that so readily flows is available to strengthen, heal, and renew us in and within all of our relationships.
Why choose a Catholic sacramental marriage?
When my husband and I were asked to speak to a group of about 24 Pre-Cana couples about what it means to live a sacramental marriage, we felt honored but also cautiously optimistic. How do we convey the permanency and faithfulness of a vocation in a world that values instant gratification and self fulfillment over sacrifice? How do we encourage fruitfulness in a culture that seeks to limit life and the witness to life? That this call from God to live our lives in a certain way is intended to be a dynamic collaboration between you, your spouse, and God? A daunting challenge to accomplish in a mere span of 20 minutes. Yet, one most definitely worth undertaking if only to be the first to plant a seed.
Within each of the sacraments, God is doing something remarkable. Taking the ordinary stuff of life: water, oil, bread and wine, and even our vows to transform what is there to be extraordinary. Unlike other sacraments where it is the priest who is the minister of the sacrament, here it is the mutual consent to one another to accept and live this gift from God. Your full yes is the Permanent and Faithful part of this vocational call.
A sacrament is a visible sign, we say, of an invisible in-working of grace. However, the sacraments are more than a solitary event, but rather an invitation to encounter God daily in a very intimate way. As a church, while we have done an incredible job at promoting the initial reception of the sacraments, we haven’t been as good at imparting what to expect after. When this happens, it is as if that grace goes unnoticed, or lies dormant awaiting our yes to God’s action in our lives.
Why including God makes all the difference
Though from the very beginning my husband and I realized the importance of God as the foundation in our marriage, it has been through the beautiful mess of life that we have experienced this grace most abundantly. The year our youngest son was born was to be undoubtedly one of the most challenging years of my life. In my third trimester, my grandmother, who was a both a pillar and close confidante, passed away suddenly from pneumonia. Unable to physically be present, I sobbed as I packed the bag I knew I could not use as travel was not in my near future. Taking the bag from my hand, my husband held me as we prayed our goodbyes together. Then 4 weeks after Thomas was born, my mom flew in welcome the latest addition — only to discover that she could not breathe. At a doctor’s visit, she was told that she had stage 4 lung cancer and given but a month to live.
Meanwhile, our house was being re-sided with vinyl and new windows put into our antique home. Truthfully, I felt much like that old house — stripped and vulnerable to my core with but my husband, children, and God as my only shelter. In order to help my mom and settle details of the estate, my husband stepped up to take on both a full-time job and mine as well. Our marriage was not a 50-50 split at this point but 100-100 as each of us were giving more that we could ever imagine possible. That is because God was in the middle of it all, working alongside and enabling us to do the impossible.
That spring, we would soon discover that it would be my turn to take the reins as we received news of his imminent deployment to Iraq and selection to fly the Apache right into the worst of it. We made the necessary preparations and continually prayed that God would work it all out for good. And did He ever! My husband leaned into God, praying the Rosary that each of the men and women under his command would go home if it was God’s will. One by one, all but two were released, when my husband fully lifted up his own deployment status. Standing in front of the flight surgeon with the deploy stamp in hand, his shoulder x-ray was examined again. Given the choice to have the tear repaired there or return home to Boston, he knew God had intervened.
So many times things don’t go as we have planned, and others where we discover God’s plan is so much better than our own. Including God enables us to love and carry beyond our own abilities, desire to want what is best for one another and to remain faithful as God has proven to be. 25 years later, how thankful I am that God is part of this journey and vocation in life!
Copyright 2019 Elizabeth Reardon